The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


Tam1024's picture

Starter won't double itself

May 25, 2007 - 5:34pm -- Tam1024

I am trying to nurse my sick starter back to health and not getting the results I want.  About 10 days ago I started a vigorous attempt to revive my barely living starter.  I have been using 1/4 c. of starter, 3/4 c. flour and 1/2 c. water. I let it sit out for 12 hours and then refridgerate it for the next 12 hours.

mse1152's picture

Oh well...

After reading so much about people's love of the Thom Leonard country French bread, I decided to try it, following the steps in mountaindog's post. Here's the breakdown:

Starter: Early Thursday, I began the rye starter with a generous teaspoon of my active white starter, 1 T. dark rye and 1 T water; fed it the same rye and water amounts almost 6 hours later - had good bubbles at that point. Just before bed, discarded half of it, and fed same amounts again. Friday at about 6:45 a.m., I fed it 50g each of rye and water, without dumping anything. It doubled in 3 hours and was very bubbly!

Rye Starter
















Levain: I mixed the levain at 7:00 p.m. Friday. The starter had not moved up or down, and I wonder if I should have feed it once more; the instructions say you can feed the starter up to 12 hours before mixing the levain, so I thought I was in the ballpark. Next morning, Saturday, the levain looked like this at about 6:40 a.m. (no such thing as sleeping in with a toddler in the house):


TL Levain
















OK, looks good! I began mixing the dough around 7:00. I added no extra flour to knead, which I did for 10 minutes, then 5 more minutes after adding the salt. The dough was pretty firm, not sticky at all. I think mountaindog said it felt like piecrust dough to her, and I agree. Rested the dough for 30 minutes, then did the 3 S&F cycles with 30 minutes between each. The dough was easy to stretch out, but it felt like nothing much was happening until the 3rd cycle, when it began to feel like there was some growth going on. Then it sat in the bowl for the remaining 90 minutes, at about 69F.


Resting and Shaping: I divided the dough into 2 balls, and rested them for 15 minutes, then further shaped into boules and set them on parchment to proof (I don't have bannetons), on a baking stone. Heard plenty of bubbles popping as I tried to gently increase the tension.


Proofing: OK, here's where I deviated a little (busted!). I wanted to make sure the bread was baked before we went to a friend's house for dinner (pizza, go figure). So I used the proofing cycle in my oven, set to 85F. Covered the dough with oiled plastic, and set timers to check once an hour. After two hours, a small tragedy began to unfold:
















The dough had outgrown the stone; it felt nice and light, though. The top one in the picture is mangled because I had started to try to rescue it, then (in true Fresh Loaf fashion) thought to grab the camera for posterity. At first, I had dough damage panic, then I started to chuckle sort of oddly, and thought "Wait, I really meant to make oblong loaves...yes, that's right! Oblong!"


TL reshaped











's over, go on about yer business, folks...back in the warm oven they went for another hour (3 hours total proof).


Bake: Since mountaindog has posted about baking this bread from a cold start, I did that too. Set the oven to 425F and made some of the ugliest slashes I've done recently...too ugly to photograph in the raw. Here's how it all turned out:


TL loaves















They rose, and they look edible, but in a sorta grocery-store-ish way. Well, let's see what's inside, shall we?




TL crumb















The holes were left on the cutting room floor! Though I think that any degassing during the reshaping didn't affect the interior of the loaves; I don't think the crumb would have been open even if the boules had proofed fully untouched. The flavor is mild and it's quite edible, with a slight tangy aftertaste, but I was disheartened at this result. Sounds pretty civilized, eh? Actually, I pouted a bit and exercised my vocabulary, if you know what I mean.

So I'd like to ask the Leonard veterans if anything I described in the procedure sounds like the culprit...other than extreme dough-handling mid-proof. Maybe that's the only problem, who knows?

Now I'm off to go check on TT and JMonkey's starter escapades...


kjknits's picture

Reviving my frozen starter

May 18, 2007 - 2:19pm -- kjknits

I seem to go through spurts of feverish obsession with things. Knitting, sewing, bread baking. Actually it goes in cycles, because I always come back to those things, even if it has been so long that you'd assume I had lost interest. Of course, right now I'm all about the bread baking again (even though I always bake bread, the rustic type hasn't been in the forefront lately--till now). After hanging around these boards for a while, I decided I should really get my old frozen sourdough starter out and try baking with it again.

JMonkey's picture

Well, I said I'd make this later tonight, but I didn't exactly expect it to be this late. Ah well, it'll still be "later today" for about 20 minutes.

Anyway, here's what I propose, TT.

  1. Let's use SourdoLady's method, with just a few caveats.
  2. If you've got scales, I'd prefer to use equal weights of flour and liquid ... say 1 ounce flour and 1 ounce water instead of 2 Tbs.
  3. If you don't have scales, no biggie -- we'll just follow SourdoLady's measures.
  4. My grocery store doesn't have pineapple juice so far as I know, so would it be alright to go with orange juice?
  5. I'll use freshly ground flour, as that's all I've got. Hope you don't mind, but since I've got the grains here, I'd rather not go out an buy a bag. What brand will you be using? If you can find fresh-ground flour, that'd probably help, but it's not necessary. I didn't use fresh-ground for either of the starters I made. I've got a whole wheat starter that I began with rye for the first three days and then switched to white flour -- I converted to whole wheat a few months later. That's Arthur the Whole Wheat Starter. Rhonda Rye is a pure rye starter.
  6. How about we start Saturday morning and we'll just post our pictures and commentary here. Sound good?
  7. Would you rather start with rye, whole wheat or whole spelt? I can do any of the above, though my preference would be whole wheat.
  8. Let's stick with whole grains until we're sure we've got something going. I think we'll have an easier time of it and, once we're sure the culture is alive, we can convert to white flour.

Sound good? I'm rarin' to go!
Mini Oven's picture

Firm Starter 5°

April 20, 2007 - 5:16pm -- Mini Oven

I took my cold starters, 20g each and added 40g water and 100g low gluten flour and mixed.  Kneaded the crumbs into balls and put them into containers and parked then into the 5° (41°F) fridge.  My plan is to do a cool rise first to encourage the Lactobacillus and do a warm rise later for the yeast.  Also wish to slow down activity for storage.  That was Thursday, today is Saturday, about 40 hours have passed and I might have to move the SD balls to larger containers!  They leveled out just a little but have almost doubled!  This could be interesting!  Am I on to something? 

Sam-I-Am's picture

My new starter is only about a week and a half old, but today I was able to make sour bread with it!

Last year I tried my first starter, and while the starter was sour, I could never figure out how to get nice sour bread. I then got busy with other things, and the next thing I knew, my starter was looking quite black and fuzzy in the back of the fridge. Ew.

My new starter at 4 days old:


This is from sourdolady's starter recipe; rye flour and OJ the first days, then moving to a white flour and water feeding.

The bread I made today:


I wasn't trying for a such an open crumb as this; I was mostly interested in getting sour flavor. The bread turned out quite flat! 

The below paragraph is my notes to myself on how I made this bread; skip it if you get bored! 

I didn't really use anyone's recipe...I combined a cup of starter with two cups of flour and some water, with a tablespoon or two of rye thrown in. I let it autolyse for 20 minutes then added salt (1/2 - 1 tsp) and kneaded. I kept the dough VERY wet. I'm a beginning baker so I had some trouble handling it. It did, however, develop nicely while kneading. Then I refrigerated the dough overnight as it was getting late. This morning I pulled it out of the fridge and let it resume fermenting on the countertop. It was about 70* in our house. The dough took a very long time to rise at first; the internal temp of the dough didn't get above 70* till after the folding. I folded (ala JMonkey) it when the dough was double and let it ferment again. Then I shaped it, degassing just a little, and let it rise in the coldest room of the house. When it was doubled, I put my baking stone in the oven and heated it to 550*. I slashed the dough (which didn't work so well; it was too wet for me to use my usual technique of Very Sharp Knife) and then threw it in while spraying the oven with water. There was hardly ANY oven spring, which is likely a result of my abysmal shaping skills. I turned the heat down to 475* after 5 minutes, then let it bake for 25 additional minutes, until the bread was golden brown and sounded hollow. I impatiently let it cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then eagerly sliced into it. Crispy crust, lovely large irregular holes, and best of all, sour taste! I'm sure I can get better sour bread in the months to come as my starter matures, but for a first bread, this was pretty incredible!

Next time: work on shaping technique. Like Floydm said, a baker needs an iron hand in a velvet glove. I think I didn't get very good tension or a good seal. I also think I left too much air in there before shaping.

Let me know if you see anything that can be improved! 

chuppy's picture

Day four of Sourdough Starter

April 1, 2007 - 5:01pm -- chuppy

Good evening everyone!

I recently started my sourdough starter that sourdolady suggested starting with ornge juice. Today is day four and I've only notice about 12 little bubbles in the bottom of the tightly covered glass jar I'm using. I've discarded every thing except for 1/4 cup of the mix and then added the flour and spring water. The smell was quite intense but, I once again wonder if I am on the right track? At this point I will say thank you and wait for some response.

In search of my starter - Chuppy

zolablue's picture

Firm Sourdough Starter - Glezer recipe

March 24, 2007 - 8:43am -- zolablue

I’m finally getting around to posting Maggie Glezer’s firm sourdough starter recipe.  For those of you having problems with your starters you might wish to give this a try.  Most people here are using batter-style starters so it might be interesting to see if there is any discussion on firm starters.  Plus I need help in learning to convert properly for use in recipes which don’t use a firm starter and there are always questions that come up.


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